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When Beth Murora of Rwanda was six months pregnant with twins, she traveled 1000 miles from her home to gain the skills that would enable her to help the women of Rwanda.
A Difficult Decision
“Have you lost your senses? Have you gone mad?" asked Arthur Rutagengwa of his wife Beth Murora when she announced her plans to enroll in the Cisco Networking Academy program. It was May of 2001 and Beth, who was 27-years old and 6 months pregnant with twins at the time, assured her husband that she was of sound mind and resolute in her decision to enroll in the program.
Beth's pregnancy wasn't her husband's only concern. Although Beth had been honored with a scholarship to attend the program, it was being offered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which was nearly 1000 miles from her home in Kigali, Rwanda. To complete her coursework, Murora would need to leave her family for six months, during which time she would give birth to her twin boys. "It was one of the most difficult decisions of my life," Murora recalls. "But, too often women lose opportunities to advance themselves because of family obligations. I could not pass up this opportunity, which would help me to help other women in Rwanda. I had a vision and the willingness to make it a reality."
Murora had been accepted into a Networking Academy pilot scholarship program sponsored by Cisco, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), and the World Bank's Information for Development Program. The Networking Academy program in Ethiopia is part of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) initiative, which has brought the Networking Academy to 40 of the world's 49 least-developed countries. In 2001, the Networking Academy provided full residential scholarships for nearly 50 African women to complete the Cisco CCNA course, including Murora.
Murora’s participation in the program was fully supported by the Rwandan Ministry of Women's Affairs, where she serves as a program officer. "Our Ministry has a vision to create an information and communication technology (ICT) department, which will promote ICT in every government organization and among women as well. The CCNA training was viewed as a major step forward in equipping us with the knowledge we need to implement these types of programs," Murora explains. The Minister of the Rwandan Ministry of Women's Affairs worked with the Ethiopian embassy in Addis Ababa to ensure that Murora’s medical and housing needs would be met while she attended the Networking Academy courses. With the guarded support of her husband and family, Murora embarked on her journey to Ethiopia, accompanied by her mother-in-law. "I knew my babies would be in good hands while I attended classes," she recalls.
Although Murora had completed some computer-related courses while earning her bachelor’s degree in public administration from the National University of Rwanda, she knew that the 280-hour, 6-month CCNA curriculum would pose a challenge. Additionally, program participants were expected to complete training on gender and development, entrepreneurship, and management skills at the UNECA African Center for Women.
"Some days it was very hard for me," she recalls, "but the Networking Academy instructors were very helpful. They kept me going and encouraged me to succeed. I set out of my country with a goal to achieve. Despite the pain I felt some mornings, by sheer force of will I got out of bed and to my classes because of my goal. By accomplishing what I set out to do, I knew I could look forward to much happiness when I returned to my home, mission accomplished, with my new babies."
On October 30, 2001, Beth gave birth to two healthy boys named Jack Kenzo Rutagengwa and Jackie Ken Rutagengwa, and in February 2002, Murora completed her CCNA coursework. Upon her joyous return to Rwanda, Beth possessed a technical skill set that enabled her to pursue the development and implementation of ICT programs. Her work is conducted against the backdrop of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
As a result of the genocide, women constitute approximately 70 percent of Rwanda's population and 50 percent of them are widows. "The genocide left this country in need of rebuilding both physically and emotionally," says Murora. "The majority of Rwandan women are single mothers who are very, very poor. These women must be able to earn a living and support their children. I intend to use the knowledge I gained through the Networking Academy to help raise these women out of poverty with the technical training to run organizations and develop businesses, and a communications network that enables information sharing among women's forums."
"People should know that Rwanda is now secure," Murora adds, "things are improving, and we are going about the business of rebuilding this country. The Networking Academy provided an opportunity for me to be a part of the rebuilding of Rwanda."